New Delhi: India is expected to soon seek consultations with the US under the aegis of World Trade Organisation (WTO) on visa fee hike for professionals, which discriminates against Indian software companies that send employees to America on short-term contracts.
Although the commerce ministry had internally started the process in April, collecting all the relevant information and data to make a strong case in the WTO is taking time, a senior official said.
"But now we have finalised our case. We are putting all the evidences together. The US visa fee hike is a discriminatory move against Indian IT firms. We are expecting that by October end, we will formally file the complaint and seek consultations under WTO," the official said.
The US had raised visa fee in 2010 to fund its enhanced costs on securing border with Mexico under the Border Security Act. India has been protesting against the measure at different forums.
An American law (Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010) has substantially increased the fees for H-1B and L-1 categories of visas for applicants that employ more than 50 employee in the US or have more than 50 per cent of their employees admitted on non-immigrant visas (called the ‘50/50 rule’).
"... Which is prima facie discriminatory for Indian companies," Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia had said earlier.
According to industry experts the H1B visa fee has been increased to USD 2,000 per visa application and L1 by USD 2,700 per visa application.
Some of the top Indian companies--TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam-- were affected by the US action on visa fee. The US is the largest market for the Indian software exports.
As per the procedure of WTO, consultation is the first stage of a complaint filed with the global trade body.
Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further. After 60 days, if consultations fail to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.
Meanwhile, New Delhi and Washington have also completed consultations on other issues in WTO that include avain influenza and steel.
In April, India had complained that the US had wrongly imposed countervailing duties, a kind of restrictive duty, on certain hot-rolled carbon steel flat products from India.
"We have asked for setting up of panel under the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism on the steel issue," the official said.